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Am I going Mad? - Mental Health of Self

Health Care 21 Oct, 2022 Follow News

Am I going Mad? - Mental Health of Self

Let me ask you a question. When was the last time you asked yourself “Am I going mad?”

The then President of the American Psychological Association, at the packed APA 2002 Annual Convention in Chicago pointed out that; “My colleagues and I have demonstrated that situational forces... can generate surprisingly powerful contributions to make good people behave in bad ways” in a presentation worryingly titled; Why and how normal people go mad.

I would like to approach this from a Better Health for Self perspective, and so my own conversation would be called; How normal people can stay sane, and at the moment that might have an additional caveat of; in a world seemingly going mad. Clearly mental health is a hugely important issue and when we considering better health, we so obviously need to address both the mind and the body, approaching each with equal respect for their impact on our wellbeing.

Firstly, it is important to remember that far from being disconnected, our brain and the remainder of our physical self are inextricably linked.

Lorin Koran, studying patients from California’s public mental health system (Koran. Arch Gen Psychiatry 1989), estimated that of the more than 300 000 patients treated in the California public mental health system in fiscal year 1983 to 1984, 45% had an active, important physical disease. This is hugely important. Nearly half of patients considered sufficiently unwell as to need active intervention in fact had underlying physical conditions that in part or in whole explained their mental health conditions or symptoms. So, if you find yourself exhibiting what you feel are mental or emotional symptoms, perhaps the first action to take is to visit your GP and ascertain if there might be an undiscovered more physical or biochemical ailment at the root cause level.

So why do we today have such a heightened awareness and indeed concern for our mental wellbeing?

It’s utterly clear that the experience of the last few pandemic years has contributed massively to our sense of anxiety and ultimately to increases in depression. This set of mental shocks is not standalone. In the Cayman Islands, in our first pandemic year, we added a 7.7 magnitude earthquake with subsequent tsunami panic, a horrible dump fire, a hurricane and a heap of job anxiety to our otherwise blissful existence.

With this in mind, I’d like to propose the analogy of the mental health fuel tank, much like that of the average car. The car runs great when we put in good quality fuel, and keep it at a sensible level, especially in relation to our journey. It helps to give the car a service every now and again too. Because when we find ourselves on the dregs of reserve, especially if having fuelled it with low grade sustenance, we start to get problems from minor hiccups to major failure. I’d argue we are no different.

So, what is our human high-grade fuel?

There is no question that the ultimate high-grade fuel constituent is sleep, a topic I covered in some depth last week. Sleep deprivation encourages:

• Mood changes

• Difficulty concentrating

• Memory problems

• Paranoia

• Hallucinations

Let’s recognise that these are ALL neurological or mental symptoms and, when considering my original question, the very reasons we find ourselves asking “am I going mad?”. I may just need more sleep.

We happen to be blessed with the ultimate rejuvenators – nature and sunshine.

Sunshine alone is linked to increased serotonin levels leading to mood improvements and a sense of wellbeing. We have an abundance and so we need to be sensible but given the recognised impact of sun-deprivation on seasonal affective disorder and even severe depression found much further up in the Northern Hemisphere, we need to get out there and embrace our ultimate free therapy.

When it comes to nature, the evidence is no less impressive. Cynthia Frantz, PhD, a professor of psychology and environmental studies at Oberlin College in Ohio states; “Spending time in nature has cognitive benefits, but it also has emotional and existential benefits that go beyond just being able to solve arithmetic problems more quickly”. She goes on to explain a series of benefits from mental functional ability to mood improvement and reductions in anxiety and depression.

In a World where currently, many people are suffering from increased mental health difficulties due specifically to financial anxieties, it is already mood lifting to realise that three of the most powerful interventions; sleep, sunshine and nature, are free and readily available to us all.

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